top of page
Lobby Design.1 copy.jpeg

Fixin' The Morgan-Wixson
Capital Campaign

Groundbreaking for our little theatre on Pico, was  on September 14, 1963. Over the next three and a half years, the members of the organization built this theatre themselves, under the supervision of contractor Manny Carbahal.

On March 25th 1966, the brand new theatre opened it’s doors. Made of redwood and brick, with 201 seats in the auditorium, a large proscenium and wing space, a cyc, weighted fly system - the Santa Monica Theatre Guild was ready to produce their plays in the new space.

Updates to the lobby area have been made over the decades, but it has been many a year since the last upgrade. The time has come to give the lobby, concession stand, restrooms, and outdoor lounge an update.....and we need your help.  

When the new theatre first opened, founding member Glen Ford mounted a plaque at the corner stone that read: “It started with a Dream.” 

We're dreaming again, and hope you'll join us.

Prefer to send a check instead of clicking? Simply make it our to: 

Santa Monica Theatre Guild


and mail it to:

Morgan-Wixson Theatre

2627 Pico Blvd

Santa Monica, CA 90405

Concession Stand

Giving Levels

Banner Photo YouTube2.jpg

The Work to be Done

The lobby and restrooms will be getting a fresh coat of paint, and new lighting fixtures. The restrooms will get tile accents, new vanities, and brand new partitions. The lobby will be redesigned with a new concession stand, a photo wall of the shows we have produced over our 78 year history, a new cork wall for show information and cast headshots, as well as brand new carpet. 


But that's just the start. We need to make roof repairs, upgrade the driveway which we have been using as an Outdoor Lounge, replace our marquee, and more. All the money raised will go to these efforts. Our community has always pulled together when we've needed to make improvements and we hope you'll join us for our latest campaign. 

The Board of the Morgan-Wixson approved the remodel of the lobby and restrooms of our theatre. Our schedule for this year is completely booked with the exception of a couple weeks in April. It’s the only time we can do it. So we're getting started. That’s where you come in. We would love your help as we bring this dream to reality.  Whether you can contribute $50 or $500, all donations will help. 


Renovation is due to be completed by April 25th, with just a few days to 

finalize finishing details before we open "Agnes of God" and "Willy Wonka Jr."

A history of
The Morgan-Wixson Theatre

By the 1940’s the “City on the Sea” had grown from a little sleepy getaway for Los Angelenos to a thriving city of its own.There were small theatre groups performing in Santa Monica throughout the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s. Two of those groups were the Santa Monica Players and the Rand Theatre Crafters, which performed in an old storeroom around 1452 2nd Street between Santa Monica Blvd. and Broadway. Actors in these groups included Grace Godino, Mel Wixson and rising movie star, Glenn Ford. For whatever reason, which has been lost to time, a handful of local actors met in the parlor of Eric and Ruth Martin’s home in 1946 to draw up plans for a new “play producing group” they named The Santa Monica Theatre Guild. The group wrote up a set of Bylaws, and on March 25, 1946, they incorporated the Guild as a non-profit organization, and began developing their season.

They made arrangements to use the Miles Playhouse, a Municipal Theatre in Lincoln Park on Lincoln between Wilshire and California. But after four successful years at the Miles Playhouse, the Guild realized it had outgrown the space. A total of 28 shows had been produced by this point, and they needed space for the vast array of sets, costumes and props they had accumulated. Around this same time, they realized they would also benefit from a leader to help them grow, and turned to Geoffrey Francis Morgan - a distinguished citizen, civic leader, educator, writer, and who in the 1930’s, served two terms in the California Assembly - who negotiated them a new home. 

It was Geoffrey, who in 1950, through his many civic and government contacts that secured a new home for the Santa Monica Theatre Guild when they took over an abandoned Navy Recreation Hall, previously known as the Rancho Playhouse, where they began producing their shows. 

MWT Morgan Theatre.jpeg

The Playhouse was described as a pine paneled intimate playhouse, with 136 seats. Remodeled by members of the Guild, it had a yellow grand curtain and “gaily covered furniture.” The audience risers were built by Guild volunteers and members of the carpentry class at Santa Monica Technical School.


In 1951 the Members of the Santa Monica Theatre Guild voted to rename the Rancho Playhouse in Geoffrey Morgan’s honor. Upon hearing the news, Geoffrey said “A man would be something less than human if he were not deeply moved by this expression of appreciation.” Geoffrey Morgan passed away four months later, on March 2nd 1952. 


Over the next ten years, the Santa Monica Theatre Guild produced acclaimed shows featuring future movie and television stars that included Glenn Ford, Happy Day’s Marian Ross, the middle square of the Brady’s, Anne B. Davis, movie heart-throb James Dean, Harvey Korman of Carol Burnet fame, Dick Sargeant (the future bewitched husband), and many others. In 1956 they celebrated their Tenth Anniversary and produced their 100th production. 


Regarded as one of the finest little theaters in southern California, The Morgan Theatre had grown to become an important theatrical venue in Santa Monica receiving glowing reviews. It had become a training ground for young actors. Its’ distinguished patrons included Bette Davis, Charles Laughton, Dorothy McGuire and many others stars of the day. Set builders and costume designers from Hollywood also built sets and costumes for the Morgan Theatre. On December 15th, of 1962, the guild held their annual Christmas party where they handed out the Geoffrey Awards for excellence and took the only photo we have of the old place, out front of the theatre.


Two weeks later, on December 26, 1962, around 10:20pm, shortly after rehearsals for “Critic’s Choice” ended, a fire broke out in the Wardrobe room, adjacent to the theatre lounge. It took three engine companies 2 1/2 hours to put the blaze out. It was a total loss, it wasn’t until 1:05 am that the fire was even declared under control. Only the exterior walls of the building stood, the entire interior of the theatre was gutted, including the wardrobe and set collection. The cause of the disastrous fire was deemed to be “careless cigarette smoking” although no one was ever officially charged.

But the fire did not detour the members of the guild who declared that the show would go on, and members got to work. Within three days of the fire the guild held an emergency meeting. Plans were made to begin the search for a new permanent home, and the the raising of funds began almost immediately. SMTG Legend, Grace Godino took on the incredible job of fundraising. Mel Wixson and Bob Webster chaired the Building Committee.


Over the next five months, thanks to the tireless efforts of Grace Godino and the volunteer members, they raised the money necessary to acquire a piece of land at 2627 Pico Boulevard where a home and Barber Shop had stood. Escrow closed on July 26, 1963. 

Demolition of the site began in August of 1963. Ground on the new theatre was broken a month later on September 14th with much fanfare. A commemorative shovel ceremony, the Anderson Highlanders of Lakewood provided bagpipes tunes.

The building, designed by architect David Tenneson Rich, was built by the members of the theatre. Literally with their own hands. The walls. The bricks. The poured concrete. Everything but the steel beams. All volunteers overseen by a contractor, Manny Carbahal.

Grace and the members of the theatre continued to raise funds for the construction and interior furnishings, sound system, lighting system, and seats. The entire community and surrounding areas pitched in. The Mariners club donated money.

Santa Monica Bank made a donation. Billboards were put up in Santa Monica and the west side asking for help to build the new Morgan theater. There were rummage sales and box lunches, afternoon teas, and a silent art auction at the Surf Rider.


By January 1964 the two-story rear building which included the rehearsal hall, costume shop, dressing rooms, and scene shop was completed. And the auditorium was well underway. But building the theater took a lot longer than originally hoped. Now working with volunteer labor the building was several years behind schedule.


In January of 1966, three years after the Old  Morgan Theatre burned, it was announced that the NEW Morgan theater would open on March 25 with the show “Skin of our Teeth”….an aptly titled show. 


The theater was made of redwood and brick and was 12,000 square ft. of usable space, 201 seats in the auditorium, it had a 14 x 30 foot proscenium augmented by an apron thrusting out into the house, it had wing space to allow for wagon scenery, a cyc, a brand new state of the art lighting system, a weighted fly system, AND a grand drape and main curtain hand woven by Web Textiles of Pasadena. 


There was a box office with brand new ticketing system and a coffee bar, a gift of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Markowitz. And the centerpiece of the lobby, a bronze sculpture of Thespis by well known local artist Russell Homes, a gift of the artist.


The new Morgan Theatre finished out the 1960’s with acclaimed productions of works like “The Miracle Worker” directed by Hollywood film and stage actor James Griffith, new works like “The Visit,” “A Shot in the Dark,” “Zoo Story,” and classics like “Romeo & Juliet.” They mounted a new production of “Green Grow the Lilacs” which is the play from which Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma was based. 


Throughout the 70’s and 80’s, the new Morgan Theatre continued to delight audiences with an ambitious slate of eight to thirteen shows each season, producing comedies, dramas, classics, musicals and new works. 


Many of the founding members had moved on or passed away by the late 70’s, but Grace Godino and Mel Wixson were still contributing to the Guild: acting, directing, sitting on the Board and contributing in numerous important ways. And a whole new crop of theatre lovers joined the Guild. In December of 1980, Mel Wixson was performing in a production of A Christmas Carol when he had a heart attack while on this stage. Unbelievably, he finished the performance before being rushed to seek medical attention. He died shortly thereafter on December 21, 1980. Later that next year, in recognition of Mel’s selfless devotion to the Guild, the membership voted to rename the theatre The Morgan-Wixson Theatre, and on August 9, 1981, a dedication ceremony was held in his honor.


Since that time, the Morgan-Wixson Theatre has continued to grow and change with the times. Producing more musicals, starting a youth theatre program and a annual Youth Musical. More recently producing New Works Festivals, Community Discussions, Talkbacks, having a focus on diversity & inclusion, the business of our theatre, shoring up the foundations for growth, and Youth Workshops. The soul and heart of the theater continues to grow and learn and change....but not much has changed physically. 

It's time to give our little home an update.


Seventy-eight years and still going strong. When the new theatre first opened, founding member Glen Ford mounted a plaque at the corner stone that read: “It started with a Dream.” 


The dream continues.

bottom of page